Amir Barzin, DO, Susan Fiscus, PhD, and Amy James Loftis will be recognized for their contributions to creating and operating the Carolina Together Testing Program at an in-person event honoring all six Massey Award winners across UNC-Chapel Hill.
Six Carolina employees, including three from the UNC School of Medicine, will receive the 2022 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award, one of the most prestigious distinctions for faculty and staff, at an awards luncheon on April 23.
Established in 1980 by the late C. Knox Massey ’25 of Durham, the award recognizes “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees.
This is the first year since 2019 that the University has bestowed the Massey Awards in person. Three of this year’s recipients are part of the team that built and operated the Carolina Together Testing Program, which was critical to the return to in-person classes and on-campus activities.
“The efforts of Carolina’s employees to further this University’s important work during an ongoing global pandemic are awe-inspiring,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “The six recipients of this year’s Massey Awards exemplify the dedication, hard work and range of skills of all our colleagues. I am humbled by their contributions and grateful for all they do for the University and the people of North Carolina.”
The winners, selected through a campus-wide nomination process, each receive a $10,000 stipend and an award citation.
This year’s School of Medicine recipients are:
Assistant professor, School of Medicine’s family medicine department, medical director for UNC Health Virtual Care Services and the UNC Health Clinical Contact Center
Barzin has been at the forefront of Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 global health crisis. He led UNC Health’s Respiratory Diagnostic Center to deliver rapid testing early in the pandemic, all while continuing to provide exemplary care to his patients. He then served as director of the Carolina Together Testing Program, leading campus COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The campus testing effort has been the most important factor in enabling Carolina to stay safe and resume more normal campus operations. He also has provided critical health communications to the University and to the state of North Carolina throughout the pandemic. Barzin’s tireless efforts and commitment to the CTTP, to the University and Chapel Hill community, and to the state of North Carolina have been nothing short of extraordinary. He receives the Massey Award as part of a team, along with his CTTP collaborators Susan Fiscus and Amy James Loftis.
Past director of the Retrovirology Core Laboratory, School of Medicine’s microbiology and immunology department
Fiscus retired in 2014 after 25 years of service. Six years later, in October 2020, she returned to service and joined Amy James Loftis to tackle an immense challenge — building the UNC COVID Surveillance Lab, a high-capacity PCR testing facility, from the ground up in less than 11 weeks, a job that often takes years. The lab is a critical component in the CTTP. Drawing on her unique experience, Fiscus helped establish partnerships with temporary talent agencies and procured space, supplies and automated molecular diagnostic testing equipment. She obtained critical Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification for the lab and created standard operating procedures to ensure safety and accuracy. The surveillance lab allowed the CTTP to become the University’s frontline of defense against a disease that has killed nearly 1 million people in the United States. She receives the Massey Award as part of a team, along with her CTTP collaborators Loftis and Barzin.
Amy James Loftis
Medical laboratory supervisor, UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and UNC Global Clinical Trials Unit, both in the School of Medicine
Working with her longtime mentor, Fiscus, Loftis helped build the UNC COVID Surveillance Lab, a key part of the Carolina Together Testing Program, from scratch in less than three months. She drew on deep experience in developing and establishing high-quality testing labs at global sites, such as Liberia, with limited resources. She meticulously focused on the specifications for spacing, technical requirements and lab management of space and supplies and purchased refrigerators, freezers and biosafety cabinets. Once the testing facility was up and running, Loftis managed a team of 25 to 30 people, working at times around the clock to streamline the lab process — analyzing samples, verifying results and getting those results to people quickly. Despite the intense pressure of the challenge, Loftis took time to make her team feel valued by feeding them, introducing games and writing thank you notes to let them know how much they were appreciated. She receives the Massey Award as part of a team, along with her CTTP collaborators Fiscus and Barzin.
Read more about all of this year’s Massey Award winners in The Well.